THE IoS PROFILE: Dick Cheney - the Running Mate Has Stumbled. but Will He Fall? ; President Bush Declares War on Corporate Greed and Sharp Practice and - Whoops - Look Who's Put Himself in the Firing Line

By Cornwell, Rupert | The Independent (London, England), July 14, 2002 | Go to article overview
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THE IoS PROFILE: Dick Cheney - the Running Mate Has Stumbled. but Will He Fall? ; President Bush Declares War on Corporate Greed and Sharp Practice and - Whoops - Look Who's Put Himself in the Firing Line


Cornwell, Rupert, The Independent (London, England)


He is the man forever associated with the "Secure Undisclosed Location" - the eminence grise of the administration, who, in the wake of 11 September, was whisked from secret hideaway to secret hideaway to foil the designs of al-Qa'ida, ready to take over if anything happened to the President. As the threat from the terrorists seemed to ebb, Dick Cheney was occasionally sighted again. But now he is back to a furtive life on the run for less glorious reasons. As George Bush struggles to clean up American business, his Vice-President finds himself not part of the solution, but part of the problem.

A profile should dwell on the gleaming CV of Richard Bruce Cheney the public servant: the young and likeable White House Chief of Staff under Gerald Ford, who then served as Congressman for his native Wyoming for a decade before George Bush senior named him Defense Secretary. Cheney's steady handling of the Gulf War enhanced his reputation further. He seriously weighed a presidential run of his own in 1996, before concluding that his chronic heart condition was unlikely to withstand the ordeal of a campaign.

Instead, four years later, he found himself almost by accident a candidate for Vice-President. Cheney had led the informal group looking for a running mate for the younger Bush, only for George W to decide that the chief recruiting officer was the man for the job. During the 2000 campaign, Cheney astutely turned his leaden oratory and lack of charisma into a badge of gravitas. Back in government, he quickly emerged as one of the most influential vice-presidents in modern times, rarely seen but a constant voice behind the throne.

In the key foreign policy arguments of the Bush administration - over Iraq, Yasser Arafat, and US participation in Kyoto and other international treaties - Cheney, together with his old mentor and ally Don Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, has invariably been on the winning side, at the expense of Colin Powell and the State Department. Cheney is one of those family retainers the Bushes love: a 24-carat loyalist to the dynasty, at 61 without further ambition of his own.

But alas, who cares about past and present public glories? Suddenly, all that matters is the private sector Cheney. Bush junior with his ol' boy drawl, silver-buckled belts and stetson hats, may be everyone's embodiment of what is referred to in the Lone Star state as the "Awhl Bidness". But the real Texas oilman in the administration is the Nebraska-born, Wyoming-bred Dick Cheney.

Bush wheeled and dealed in the oil industry minor leagues. Cheney left government to become CEO of the Dallas-based Halliburton Co, the largest oil services group in the world. In many respects he was perfect for the job. Thanks to the new boss's contacts made during the Gulf War, Halliburton people in the Middle East could deal not with mid-level functionaries but with kings, princes and presidents. On Capitol Hill, and even in a Democratic administration, the Cheney name still cut ice.

His engaging and low-key style helped too. In Congress, you would forget that the man had one of the most right-wing voting records around. In his conservatism Cheney yielded not even to Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker. Unlike Gingrich, however, Cheney did not make enemies, even among his ideological opposites. In business, of course, these latter were few. Nor did his celebrated fondness for a decent steak do any harm either (except to his heart).

But if Cheney's tenure seemed a success at the time, it has lost much lustre since. He was awarded a $20m (pounds 13.5m) golden handshake when he left, even though his contract as CEO had a couple of years to run. But even before the latest allegations of audit fraud, Halliburton's share price had tumbled from over $40 in summer 2000 to only $18. There was controversy over the company's alleged dealings with Iraq, and its 1998 acquisition of Dresser Industries, an oil equipment company with close links to the Bush family, turned into a disaster when Dresser proved to have major potential asbestos liabilities.

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THE IoS PROFILE: Dick Cheney - the Running Mate Has Stumbled. but Will He Fall? ; President Bush Declares War on Corporate Greed and Sharp Practice and - Whoops - Look Who's Put Himself in the Firing Line
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